Texas Game Wardens patrolling the Rio Grande River

NBC NEWS
Immigration Crisis
Wednesday, July 30, 2014 - 1:21pm

We've been hearing a great deal in recent weeks about the immigration crisis in this country. From the wave of children entering this country from Central America, to the political struggle in Washington.

Along the Rio Grande, in the country's hottest zone for smuggling people to the U.S. from Mexico.

There is no one closer to the action, and it's many dangers, than the Game Wardens from the Texas Parks & Wildlife, who patrol the river's shallowest stretches in small boats.

Late in the afternoon when we are along, a three man scout team confronts a 16 year-old Mexican boy caught swimming from the U.S. riverbank toward the other side.

The Warden's say they've seen him before, and suspect he's a coyote involved in migrant smuggling.

With his family screaming at the agents from the Mexican side, the boy denies being a smuggler and says he was only out for a swim, wearing jeans and shoes.

The Game Wardens call in the Border Patrol and hand him over to an agent, who takes him away for processing.

Actually catching a smuggler is a rare event, given how fast they can cross the river, or easily hide in the underbrush.

Texas Game Warden, Capt. James Dunks, "Anybody could hide there. You could hide an airplane right there and not even know it's there. It's just that thick."

The Game Wardens ride the river day and night and when it gets slow, they have to change tactics.

Mark Potter, "Right now, we're hiding in a quiet spot along the river near this downed tree, just waiting. Waiting for people on that side to start crossing, into the United States."

Most times, though, there is lots of activity, as when the scout team returned to where they picked up the 16 year-old, and had rocks thrown at them from the Mexican riverbank.

Many smugglers are very aggressive, Capt. Dunks, "How hard will they fight to protect their loads? To death, that's why it's so dangerous."

Keeping an eye, taking the risks, on America's front line. Mark Potter, NBC News, Mission, Texas.

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